The machine is a metaphor and hardly an original one. Like many metaphors the story was devoid of evidence and research. This week’s blog post provides some of the evidence and research that gives credence to the metaphor.
- The size of homes in the US grew by 55% since 1970, yet the number of people living in them reduced by 13%. Source: Clive Hamilton, Requiem For A Species, Allen & Unwin, Crows nest, NSW, Australia, 2010.
- Meat consumption per capita has tripled since 1961 and is now significantly disrupting the global nitrogen cycle. Source: Emily Matthews & Allen Hammond, Critical Consumption Trends and Implications, World Resources Institute, 1999.
- Since 1960 more than 1/5 of the world’s tropical forest cover has been removed. Ibid
- Globally we consume 50% more of the earth’s resources than the earth has the capacity to restore. Unsurprisingly, this consumption pattern is unequally distributed, with some nations consuming at a rate 400% greater than the earth can provide. I’ll leave you to guess which nations these may be. Source: Ecological Footprint Atlas, Global Footprint Network.
- Following the end of World War II the world’s consumption of oil grew rapidly from around 5 million barrels per day to over 65 million barrels per day in 1980. A slump during the early 80s saw it drop to under 6o million barrels, but it has been steadily increasing since to around 80 million barrels per day. Source: Richard Heinberg, The End of Growth, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, 2011.
- During the first decade of the 21st century the cost of oil discovery has tripled. Source: Heinberg, ibid
- Simple mathematics tells us that consumerism and the associated economic growth cannot continue indefinitely. Those with a mathematical understanding will know this. It is called an asymptote – a limit beyond which exponential growth cannot go.
- Australians spend $10.5 billion each year on goods that are never used. Source: Hamilton, op cit
- Approximately 1/3 of food is lost or wasted each year – 1.3 billion tons per year. Source: Jenny Gustovsson, Christel Cederberg & Ulf Sonesson, Global Food Losses and Food Waste, Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, Gothenburg, 2011.
- Consumers in Europe and North America waste 95-115 kg of food waste per person per year. Meanwhile, per capita food waste in Sub-Saharan Africa and SE Asia is 6-11 kg per year. Source: ibid
- Between 2000 and 2010 the amount of municipal solid waste generated per capita by urban dwellers doubled (from 0.64 kg/person/day to 1.2 kg). The waste is expected to triple by 2025. Source: Daniel Hoornweg & Perinaz Bhada-Tata, What a Waste, Urban Development Series, World Bank
- The amount of unwanted (waste) goods is indicated by the rise in the self-storage industry. In the US this rose by 81% between 1998 and 2006 and 10% in Australia. In the UK it rose by 35% per year during these boom years. Source: Hamilton, op cit.
- Inequality in the US has increased significantly since 1980, and is now higher than it was during the 1930/40s. The top 1% in the US have 20% of the total income. Similar trends exist in the UK, Canada and Australia. Source: Thomas Piketty, Capital, in the Twenty-First Century, Belknap Press, 2014.
- From 1980 – 2008 the top 1% gained over 40% of the total growth in the period in the US, and more than 20% in Australia and the UK. Source: The (Australian) Age, October 10, 2013.
- Global inequality rose between 1980 and 2002 with the Gini coefficient1 rising from 65.7 to 70.7 in that period. Source: Isabel Ortiz & Matthew Cummins, Global Inequality: Beyond the Bottom Million, UNICEF, 2011.
- Within the OECD 17 (of 22) countries experienced increased inequality between 1985 – 2008. Only two nations (Turkey and Greece) had a decrease in inequality in that same period. Source: Divided We Stand, OECD, 2011.
- The richest 1% in the world have more wealth than the rest of the world combined. Source: Oxfam Briefing Paper, 18 January 2016, citing Credit Suisse, Global Wealth Databook, 2015.
- “The real income (adjusted for inflation) of most Americans today is lower than it was almost a decade and a half ago, in 1979.” Source: Joseph Stiglitz in an interview with Cullen Murphy, 5 June 2012. Joseph Stiglitz has been the Chief Economist with the World Bank, Professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia University, and won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001.
- Four in every ten Australians feel anxious, guilty, or depressed about the amount of clutter in their homes. Source: Josh Fear, Stuff Happens, Australia Institute, Research Paper No. 52, January 2008.
- Ill health and social problems occur more frequently amongst societies with greater levels of inequality. Higher levels of inequality correspond to: greater feelings of distrust, higher levels of mental illness, lower life expectancy, greater rates of infant mortality, more obesity, lower educational performance, higher levels of teenage pregnancy, greater homicide rate, higher imprisonment rates, and lower social mobility. Source: Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level, Penguin Books, London, 2010. Wilkinson and Pickett are epidemiologists at UK universities.
- The most affluent in high inequality US counties die at a greater rate (912/100,000) than do the poorest (883/100,000) in counties with low inequality levels. Read that again. The mortality rate amongst the richest in high inequality counties is higher than it is for the poorest in low inequality counties. Source: Stephen Bezruchka (University of Washington), Income Inequality and Mortality in US Counties, American Journal of Public Health, January 2002.
- Greater environmental degradation is correlated with higher levels of social inequality. Source: Jaqueline Haupt & Carmen Lawrence, Unexpected connections: Income Inequality and environmental degradation. University of Western Australia, February 2012.
- The number of reported disasters per decade have increased almost five-fold from 1971-80 (743) to 2001-10 (3,496). Disasters include floods, drought, storms, wildfires and extreme temperature. Source: World Meteorological Association.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 150,000 people are killed annually from climate change effects. Sadly, most of these deaths are in poor countries where the infrastructure to deal with climate change effects are minimal. These are also the countries who have contributed the least to climate change. Source: WHO: World Health Report, 2005.
1. The Gini Coefficient is an internationally recognised measure of equality/inequality, with 100.00 representing absolute inequality, and 0.00 suggesting total equality.